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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 97-11-15

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Saturday, November 15, 1997


  • [01] Retired driver claims UN owes him 30,000 in benefits
  • [02] Holbrooke warns against raising tension as student demo fizzles out
  • [03] Denktash softens stance on EU
  • [04] Government protests Ecevit visit
  • [05] Government to probe Michail as calls for resignation mount
  • [06] Police close file on alleged mistreatment of Colombian
  • [07] Clerides refuses to back down on refugee title deeds
  • [08] Pay demands on hold until after elections
  • [09] Man charged with bakery break-in
  • [10] Limassol pleads with government for sewage money
  • [11] Time for dissenters to be shown red
  • [12] Hospital specialists on strike
  • [13] Cyprus entrepreneurs urged to make money, not war

  • [01] Retired driver claims UN owes him 30,000 in benefits

    By Jean Christou

    A NICOSIA man who retired almost a year ago from the United Nations after 33 years of service as a driver is living on 140 a month because he hasn't been paid benefits.

    Charalambos Avraam, 63, from Ayios Dhometios, estimates the UN owes him and another 120 or so employees amounts of up to 30,000 each in terminal benefits.

    One hundred of these are still employed at the UN and the other 25 are retired.

    Avraam, like another 450 workers, fell foul of changes in the payment system in the early 'nineties when employees were re-classified as United Nations local workers.

    Before that, they had been classified under a complicated system that involved part payment by the British army through the bases administration and part payment by the UN.

    When the system changed, all employees became entitled to terminal benefits before being reemployed as full UN local staff in 1995.

    Avraam said that after negotiations, some 300 staff finally received their benefits, but the remaining 125 did not, and have still not been paid. He did not know why.

    The British are telling him that the UN was his employer, but, according to Avraam, the UN has been stalling on payment for the past two-and-a-half years.

    On July 12, 1995 Avraam - now working at the UN as local staff - received a letter from the bases telling him that an overpayment of 153 on his monthly salary would be deducted for his terminal payments.

    Four months later on November 13, another letter from the bases told him the responsibility for the payment of his benefits "rests with your employer - the United Nations".

    The letter also said that UN headquarters in New York were "presently reviewing their liability for these terminal payments and British Forces Cyprus is unable to make any further payments to individuals on their behalf until the matter is solved."

    "If the UN and the bases have a difference of opinion, I don't care," Avraam said. "They have to pay me first and afterwards sort out their problems."

    Waving his dog-eared 1964 Unficyp ID card, Avraam said it stated he was an employee of the UN. He said he was the driver for VIP guests and had driven such senior UN staff as Oscar Camilion and Kurt Waldheim throughout his career.

    Now, he says he feels he is being fobbed off by the UN because he and the others have been promised their benefits on a number of occasions without any results.

    "All I have to show for my 33 years at the UN is this plaque," he said holding up the wood and chrome memento presented to him by senior UN officials when he retired in January this year. "After 33 years, to throw me onto the street..." he added.

    Avraam says that since he finally retired from his job in January he has been living on the 140 pension that his wife gets and the couple's savings. He estimates they have lost over 5,000 in interest on the sum owed in benefits.

    Because he was reemployed from scratch with the change of system in 1995, Avraam has not worked for long enough as UN local staff to qualify for a UN pension. He is not due for a government pension until he reaches full retirement age.

    Avraam added that some of the other 25 who were in a similar situation had children in further education abroad to support.

    Neither the UN nor the bases could be reached for comment yesterday.

    [02] Holbrooke warns against raising tension as student demo fizzles out

    By Jean Christou

    US PRESIDENTIAL envoy for Cyprus Richard Holbrooke yesterday called on all Cypriots to refrain from words or actions which could raise tension on the island.

    Holbrooke was speaking to journalists in Brussels where he has been chairing a seminar of Greek and Turkish Cypriot businessmen.

    He was commenting on the eve of today's planned protests against the 14th anniversary of the 'TRNC' and as some 6,000 students and secondary-school pupils held a first demonstration in Nicosia.

    "The people in the region have to behave in a mature manner," Holbrooke told Reuters TV in Brussels. "They can't use every little event as an excuse to escalate tensions."

    Yesterday's demonstration at the Ledra Palace checkpoint at around 11am was the culmination of a march by the students from Eleftheria square.

    The entire event passed off peacefully as the students joined their college counterparts, some of whom had staged an all-night vigil at the checkpoint on Thursday.

    The thousands of students, many wearing Greek flags, arrived chanting anti- Turkish slogans while an impressive barrage of police officers, some with electric batons, patrolled barbed-wire road blocks leading to the checkpoint.

    At the crossover point, the students listened to speeches by their union representatives and sang patriotic songs.

    But minutes after arriving, many of the secondary pupils already began to drift away, and an hour later few were left behind. By 1pm they had all gone, but road remained blocked in anticipation of today's demonstrations.

    Refugees today plan to load their belongings into cars and attempt to drive home, while bikers plan a ride from Paralimni to Nicosia and a demonstration at Eleftheria square in the afternoon.

    [03] Denktash softens stance on EU

    TURKISH Cypriots can take part in EU accession talks, Rauf Denktash has reportedly told political leaders in the north.

    According to yesterday's Turkish Cypriot press, the 'TRNC' will approve an application to be made to the EU for the membership of a federal Cyprus and will later attend the accession talks along with the Greek Cypriot side.

    The papers said Denktash announced this decision to party leaders during a meeting on Thursday.

    "But this will not mean that the Turkish Cypriots would agree to join the EU without Turkey," the papers said.

    "Once Cyprus' accession is assured, the issue will be taken to a referendum, and if Turkey has been given the green light for membership, every effort will be made to get Cyprus' membership approved: otherwise the people will be encouraged by Denktash to reject accession."

    Speaking to the press before the meeting, Denktash said the 'TRNC' could not join the EU without Turkey, but added it could be more flexible and could consider participating in the accession talks if Turkey were granted the same rights over Cyprus as EU member states.

    Denktash also said that whatever rights Greece has over Cyprus should also be given to Turkey. The EU would thereby remove the dangers which were the reasons for the Turkish side declaring that "there could be no accession without Turkey".

    [04] Government protests Ecevit visit

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday condemned the anticipated visit of Turkish deputy prime minister Bulent Ecevit - the architect of the 1974 invasion - to the north today.

    Ecevit is expected to be in the occupied areas to participate in "celebrations" of the 14th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by the Denktash regime.

    Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem is also expected to attend.

    "Ecevit has returned to the scene of the crime and proves that crimes committed in Cyprus against international law and order are carried out by Turkey," Christofides said.

    Foreign Ministry director, Alecos Shiambos, lodged protests with the embassies of Britain, France, Russia, the US and China against the visit by Ecevit and Cem. The protest also mentioned that Turkey was reinforcing its occupying forces with men and equipment.

    The Turkish Cypriot press reported that the UDI "celebrations" would include a 21-gun salute and a televised address by Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash.

    Wreaths will be laid at the Ataturk monument in occupied Nicosia in the morning before a military parade past the monument. Similar commemorative events are planned in other towns in the north and in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir.

    [05] Government to probe Michail as calls for resignation mount

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT is to "examine" the position of the Director of the Interior Ministry, Thanos Michail, following calls for his resignation.

    Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou has led cries for Michail to go after he publicly expressed support for departing Diko Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides. Kyprianou was joined by Akel and the United Democrats in questioning Michail's competence to fulfil his duties as chief returning officer for the February presidentials, claiming his comments were a show of favouritism.

    "We will examine this," said George Stavrinakis, who was sworn-in as Michaelides's replacement on Wednesday. He said he would be consulting with President Clerides before moving further.

    Stavrinakis's statements seemed to contradict the government spokesman, Manolis Christofides, who on Thursday stated Michail's comments would not be investigated by the state.

    Edek joined the chorus of Michail's detractors yesterday, saying the government should move him to another ministry to ensure the impartiality of the February elections.

    Liberals' leader Nicos Rolandis went against the flow by standing up for Michail. Rolandis said Michail was only fulfilling his customary duty as Ministry Director by thanking his departing superior. He added that Michail's statements were made under a climate of "emotional stress" - the same extenuating circumstance that Disy leader Nicos Anastassiades had cited the day before.

    Michail had described Michaelides as a "brave" politician "whose statements went against the flow and stirred stagnant waters." "We can but hope that Mr Michaelides's absence from the Interior Ministry will be very brief," he added.

    Rolandis questioned why Michail's chief detractor had been Kyprianou, when Michail had been singing the praises of a Diko Minister.

    Kyprianou and Michaelides have not been seeing eye-to-eye recently. Michaelides has shown signs of being unhappy at having to leave his government post following the collapse of the Disy-Diko government partnership.

    While Kyprianou has been busy lambasting Clerides, Michaelides has expressed his satisfaction at having worked under him. Michaelides and the other four departing Diko ministers goaded Kyprianou by staying on in their posts an extra few days, at Clerides's request, till replacements could be found.

    Michaelides has also said he hoped the Disy-Diko alliance would be resurrected, whereas Kyprianou has stated Diko is now an opposition party.

    [06] Police close file on alleged mistreatment of Colombian

    By Martin Hellicar

    POLICE have dismissed a Colombian's claims she was ill-treated by Larnaca airport immigration officials and unlawfully refused entry to the island.

    "A report by the head of the immigration department shows there is no substance to the allegations," senior police officer Sotiris Charalambous said yesterday.

    Ana Maria Pareja complained she was refused entry on arriving from Canada via Zurich on November 1 because she did not have a visa for Switzerland, her next destination. In a letter to the Cyprus Mail, she said no Colombian citizen needed a visa for Switzerland and also alleged she was man-handled by immigration officials who put her on the next flight back to Zurich.

    She said she had been invited to Cyprus by a Cypriot friend but was treated with suspicion by immigration officials just because of her nationality.

    Charalambous, without commenting on specifics, said Pareja's claims had been investigated but nothing untoward had been found. He said the matter was now considered "closed".

    The Cypriot whom Pareja had come to meet lent weight to the police version of events. "She had no cause for complaint," he said yesterday, adding that immigration officials had been "very friendly" to her.

    He said he had got to know Pareja through the Internet and offered her a place to stay when she told him she wanted to visit Cyprus.

    "If she had been allowed in and it then turned out that Switzerland would not accept her than the government would had to pay for her fair back home, " he said.

    Pareja had described how her friend had tried in vain to convince immigration officials to let her in: "My friend was desperate. He could not do anything. He tried but it was impossible."

    [07] Clerides refuses to back down on refugee title deeds

    PRESIDENT Clerides is to send back to the House a package of amendments designed to block his scheme to grant title deeds for refugee homes.

    Government spokesman Manolis Christofides said yesterday the President would be exercising his right to challenge the amendments before the Supreme Court if the House refused to vote them down.

    When passing the six bills on Thursday night, deputies had called on Clerides to shelve his controversial plan - blasted by opposition parties as a vote-winning ploy.

    Christofides said the government would in the meantime be pressing ahead with issuing more title deeds to refugees.

    [08] Pay demands on hold until after elections

    PRESIDENT Clerides will not consider labour pay demands for fear of encouraging a wave of disputes in the run up to the election.

    Clerides made it clear yesterday that any new pay demands would be put on hold until after the election.

    He is aware that those wanting to curry favour among the electorate are vulnerable to promising extra cash to win votes.

    Clerides said that as a candidate it would be improper to study or decide on any pay issues so as to remain impartial.

    "This has always been my position, even before becoming president," said Clerides' statement yesterday.

    Not until after February should pay disputes be considered so as not to encourage others to take advantage of submitting unreasonable pay demands, Clerides urged.

    "I appeal to the House and all political parties to take the same stance and postpone all new demands by workers."

    [09] Man charged with bakery break-in

    A 20-YEAR-old man has been charged in connection with a robbery at a Larnaca bakery on Wednesday.

    Tassos Georgiou from Tersephanou village yesterday appeared before Larnaca District Court and was remanded for six days after the court heard he had confessed to the robbery.

    Police said 45 of the 65 stolen from Harris Kisis' bakery were found in a plastic bag at Georgiou's home. They also found the shirt he used to cover his face during the raid.

    Georgiou was arrested after the number plate of a white car seen leaving the area was traced to him.

    [10] Limassol pleads with government for sewage money

    THE GOVERNMENT was yesterday urged to speed up payment of the cash it owes the Limassol Sewage Board (Sala) to help in completion of the next phase of the Limassol sewage system.

    Sala director and Limassol Mayor Dimitris Contides said the new 15 million scheme, to be completed by the year 2000, could sorely do with the injection of the 1 million owed by the state.

    He also urged Limassol hoteliers to speed up payments on the 4 million they owe Sala.

    The new scheme, completing stage A of the Sala plan, will connect another 28,000 residents, bringing the total number of people served to 70,000, covering 50 per cent of the wider Limassol area, Contides said.

    [11] Time for dissenters to be shown red

    By George Christou

    AFTER last week's mindless referee-bashing, it might be an idea for referees to go on the offensive this weekend and start showing red cards for dissent, of which there a is hell of a lot.

    Most of it goes unpunished, which is why players continue to harass and intimidate referees, in the hope the official will favour their side. Apoel's players for instance, who would win the moaners' title by a distance, probably spend time practising their protesting skills at the training ground. They never stop moaning at the referee and disputing his decisions.

    Had Ali Ahmed, the referee of Sunday's Apoel-Anorthosis clash, been more willing to show the red card to Apoel players who pushed and shoved him for awarding a penalty the 70-minute stoppage may have been avoided.

    Instead, after realising his mistake he spent an hour, stupidly trying to explain to Apoel's players that he had made a mistake in sending off Krismarevic and was not favouring Anorthosis as they had thought.

    That Apoel's players were demanding that a fellow-footballer should stay off - even after it was clear that this would be wrong - so they could have the advantage does not say a lot for their sportsmanship and sense of fair play.

    Today Apoel travel to Achna for a game against improving Ethnikos without four first team players -Kozniku, Aristocleous, Alexandrou and Timotheou - all of whom are suspended. Could this also be part of the refereeing conspiracy, referred to by the Apoel board which claims some hidden force is working at depriving their side of the league title?

    Apoel's Austrian coach, Kurt Jara, who, inevitably, blamed last Sunday's defeat on a plot to hand Anorthosis the championship on a plate, will have a ready excuse if his side fail to get a result in Achna today.

    Eight points behind the leaders, Apoel cannot afford to drop any more points if they are to stay in the championship race. This is why anything less than victory would be seen as a major disaster for them.

    Second-placed Apollonas, who were very fortunate to win at Alki last Saturday, will be missing key midfielder Papavassiliou when they meet struggling Ael in the Limassol derby today.

    Ael have had a shaky start to the season after a year in the second division and lack the experience that could guarantee their survival. Derby games though are an unpredictable affair and Ael could snatch a point, which would still be an upset.

    Alki, with the second poorest record in the championship - one point from seven games - meet Omonia in Nicosia knowing that they need to start taking points. The paradox is that Alki have not been playing badly, their suicidal defending has cost them dearly.

    Omonia, after two big scoring victories, struggled to subdue Ethnikos Ashias 1-0 last weekend. This dispelled the view of optimistic fans, who had thought that Omonia had overcome their early season inconsistency. An upset in Nicosia today cannot be ruled out.

    Will Aek avoid squandering a two-goal lead for the third week running when they meet the in-form away side Paralimni in Larnaca.

    Aek have not learned how to kill off games they are controlling and had settle for 2-2 draws against Apop and Dherynia in successive weeks. Had they won both these games they would have been in third place instead of in fifth.

    Paralimni, on the other hand, have taken nine points from four away games and, ominously, last weekend they beat Apop 3-2 in Paphos after trailing 2- 0. Aek have been warned.

    Third from bottom Evagoras and bottom club Ashia will be looking for their first win of the season when they meet in the strugglers' derby in Paphos today. Evagoras have the better record, having drawn three games, while Ashia have still to get a point after seven games.

    Finally, Salamina, riding high in sixth place travel, to Dherynia for a clash against Anagennisis who are looking for their second win of the season.

    League leaders Anorthosis are at home to Apop on Sunday.

    [12] Hospital specialists on strike

    MEDICAL specialists began a 10-day overtime ban yesterday to demand financial compensation for extra hours on duty. Specialists across the island will be absent from hospitals every day from 3pm till 7am, when they would otherwise have been doing overtime.

    A spokesman for the specialists, Yiorgios Santonaris, said specialists usually worked overtime "to admit" and treat "in-patients" as well as taking charge "of situations where treatment would be offered through First Aid".

    From yesterday, however, there were no specialists in the hospital out of hours, although more general medical staff were still present. Doctors can still be contacted at home.

    When asked whether the strikers "had provided a margin" of flexibility in the event of an "emergency", Santonaris replied this "had not been discussed".

    The strike is expected to cause serious inconvenience to hospital patients.

    [13] Cyprus entrepreneurs urged to make money, not war

    EUROPE and the United States encouraged Greek and Turkish Cypriot businessmen yesterday to forge economic links across the divided island as the backbone to a lasting peace.

    European Commissioner for foreign affairs Hans van den Broek and US special Cyprus envoy Richard Holbrooke told a meeting of two dozen Cypriot business leaders in Brussels that economic co-operation could bridge the most intractable conflicts.

    The European Union had learned that conflicts "which have rumbled on for decades and even centuries can be overcome", van den Broek said. "Reconciliation has been brought about through a process which started with economic co-operation."

    The 15-member EU is expected to include Cyprus next month when it names six countries selected to begin negotiations on joining the bloc in the next decade.

    "The prospects of Cyprus's accession to the EU can act as a catalyst for United Nations efforts to find a lasting settlement," the EU commissioner said.

    But it has also deepened an EU dilemma over Turkey's demand for a guarantee that it too will one day be taken into the European Union -- a promise firmly resisted by Greece.

    The Brussels conference coincided with street demonstrations in Nicosia yesterday by Greek Cypriot students holding their annual protest against the breakaway Turkish Cypriot regime.

    Cyprus's membership is contingent on a solution to the division of the island caused by the Turkish military invasion of 1974. This is a diplomatic reef on which many peacemaking bids have foundered, and American envoy Holbrooke is the latest to attempt the feat.

    While declining to discuss in detail the outcome of his recent talks with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, the diplomat who brokered the Dayton agreement to end the war in Bosnia said business incentives common to both sides were one pillar of the process the US is trying to advance.

    "Businessmen have a basic desire to settle things to get on with business. So for them commercial relations are more important than political issues," he told Reuters.

    "We have seen all over the world, in China and Taiwan, in Ireland, in Greece and Macedonia that businessmen contribute to the lowering of tensions and an increase of communications which we in the US strongly support."

    Greek Cypriot businessman Constantinos Lordos agreed with the principle but indicated that even willing entrepreneurs would have to tiptoe around Cyprus's unresolved split.

    "Without political rivalry and interference, economic bonding is the best tool for peace," he told the conference.

    "Let us use this tool together with caution and wisdom carefully avoiding tricky political ground and sensitivities deeply ingrained by a 23-year stalemate."

    The conference, organised by Columbia university and the International Peace Research Institute of Oslo, took place in one of the top hotels in Brussels.

    Speaking for the Turkish Cypriot business community, Vedat Chelik acknowledged that peaceful pragmatism was the only realistic way forward for the divided island, and for Greece and Turkey.

    "We cannot change our geography as we cannot change our history. Turkey and Greece are stuck together in the Aegean and Mediterranean and Turkish and Greek Cypriots are stuck together on the island," he said.

    "We cannot avoid each other. We have to be realistic and tackle our problems in a civilised manner and resolve our problems by peaceful means."

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1997

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